STARDROP is a relaxed adventure and mystery taking place in a setting with so much left to explore: SPACE! Meet our main character, Aryn, and her partner, John, and help them salvage spaceships, solve a mystery, and feed a cat! You’ll also pick up lots of collectibles, snoop through emails from those poor unfortunate souls, and explore a spooky ship while evading androids. All under a pretty backdrop to boot.
STARDROP is an indie game to the core; limited assets, few developers, and powered by the versatile Unreal 4 Engine. And, by few developers, I mean just one: Joure Visser, who spent three years developing the game, dedicated it to his wife and daughter, and overall did a pretty solid job. The game makes good use of Unreal’s capabilities, with good volumetric lighting and a lot of shiny surfaces that look interactable – until you try pressing the interact button a few times. Speaking of interact buttons; all controls are completely mappable on the keyboard.
The characters of STARDROP are generally likable, though John’s voice-acting and writing in general often borders on obnoxious. Aryn, however, feels like a real person, and I never found myself annoyed or questioning whether an actual person would have reacted that way. The last character I feel comfortable mentioning (without spoiling anything) is the kitten on your beginning ship. Maybe it’s just my love for cats, but I did scream in joy when I saw it, and I did desperately look for a way to pet it. This didn’t happen, though the game compromised and let me feed it. It’s likely a reference to the large number of cat-onauts in film history, including Alien, Star Trek, and The Cat From Outer Space, of which I have very foggy memories of watching as a child on VHS tapes. Either way, I’m an enormous fan.
As for mechanics, a quick check at the controls before the main game starts gives you a glimpse into what you’ll need to prepare for. These controls include an alarming one labeled sneak. I’ll be honest, I truly thought I accidentally begun playing a horror game about forty minutes into the game. Exploring an abandoned ship in space, having to turn the power on, passing security terminals and then a creepy-as-hell android that could have come out of the game Alien: Isolation? I don’t think I can really be blamed for this assumption. There is the need to avoid the androids after they’ve been turned on, but they can’t hurt you: just make a very scary noise, and walk up to stare blankly at you.
There are save stations to find on the ship, but there’s no game over screen to worry about, just the fear of that virulent bug that afflicts so many video games: crashes. I did not experience any, but bugs have been reported (and are currently being addressed by the developer!)
I do have a few complaints about STARDROP, but they’re minor. Camera motion can be jittery, which doesn’t particularly bother me but would make my motion-sickness-prone mother ill. The audio fritzed strangely several times during the beginning of my playthrough, which did make me worry the game might crash, and the loading times are what I would describe as… scary. STARDROP’s loading screens consist of a black screen and no sound, which is frightening every time the load continues for five whole seconds.
I don’t think this was my rig’s fault (it’s an average one, but not particularly taxed by this game), and I would like to suggest the developer add something to indicate that loading is, indeed, still happening.
STARDROP has a lot of potential and is a well-made game, but it didn’t suck me in. I found the movement a little clunky and frustrating, and the plot didn’t pull me forward fast enough to set the hook. I’m almost hesitant to really criticize the game knowing its development was handled by a single person, but that impressive accomplishment shouldn’t excuse its rougher edges. The opening screen says there are more missions planned to be added, along with needed updates. All of this are marks in its favor, and if you like a slow and steady story – with a cat! – this one should do nicely.